What might be said about the time spent by AB’s editors in St. Petersburg after the presentation of issue 29? Perhaps that it was a time of deepening relationships, joint initiatives and expectations. Let’s review some aspects of this deepening. First, as directly pertains to our territory on Apraksin Lane. And second, concerning our partners in the city and other cultural points.

A separate word about those who are now helping to keep our St. Petersburg editorial office site in a state corresponding to its purpose. Author and St. Petersburg office coordinator Elena Starovoitova handles a huge number of technical issues related to the physical existence of AB in the city and to local print runs. Author Anatoly Zavernyaev, known as “Rodion” in countercultural circles, successfully combines care for the office with pursuits in theology and in historical dances, which in recent years have made a great contribution to supporting the traditions and spirit of Petersburgers. Author and translator Vagid Ragimov conducts classes in Tibetan language in our editorial office, also clearly enhancing the impact of pure thoughts in the AB environment. We appreciated, in the month of November that we spent in the city, the chance to help announce the presentation of the second volume of Ragimov’s new translation of One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa. We are grateful to designer and restorer Olga Zemlyanikina, also an AB author, for her professional inspection of Tatyana Apraksina’s liberated art studio; these efforts built on work already done by Zemlyanikina and Starovoitova in 2015 to return AB’s historical editorial office to an initial degree of preparedness to serve. And we are grateful from the bottom of our hearts to all those who offered things to fill at least part of the gaps among missing household items. Thanks to such replenishment, it became possible to welcome guests and start engaging in some meaningful activity besides endless cleaning and sorting and hunting for arbitrarily rearranged or stolen things. We enjoyed visits from many wonderful and constructively minded people, whom AB either has loved for a long time or has quickly come to love now. The studio was even the scene of an interview for the Moscow magazine Through Music’s Looking Glass, whose representatives (Maria Yarygina and AB author Nikita Yarygin) photographed the updated, ever more handsome interior.

By the way, all first-run copies of issue 29 were completely snapped up. We turned again to Kirill Astakhov and his Printcafe for help. Everyone notes the excellent print quality and enjoys holding the magazine in their hands.

In addition, in the editorial office, new songs were written and, for the first time in many years, songs were sung that were written by authors once regulars on the Lane — songs specifically related to the place and its inhabitants and already played there, and songs that for various reasons were now played there for the first time. Following up on the cycles of songs penned here in 1997-98 by James Manteith at the beginning of his activity as an AB correspondent, new milestones of development in Lane-born songs finally appeared. It was very fortunate that one functional guitar remained in the plundered studio. As for the still-broken guitars, the music master Voldemar is restoring one in anticipation of our next visit.

Before the creation of new paintings and treatises on Lane, there is still much to overcome. But there is a mutual desire and room for steps of reciprocity. Many say it would be nice to show Apraksina’s California paintings in St. Petersburg. Indeed! Perhaps that could be feasible?

More on prospects and partnerships:

— New materials and suggestions are arriving from authors. Plans and interactions are arising involving people and institutions from St. Petersburg educational and cultural life. For instance:

— the Mayakovsky Library, which in 2010 hosted a presentation of the magazine and a performance of T. Apraksina’s California Psalms. Now the library has offered to host AB’s 2020 observance of the magazine’s 25th anniversary, presumably coinciding with the release of issue 30. Thanks to the staff of the Mayakovsky’s Galitzine library branch and to tips from our authors for revealing this opportunity.

— the Faculty of Philosophy of St. Petersburg State University, where AB’s festival “March Solo” was held and T. Apraksina lectured in 1998, and which has long maintained a relationship with AB’s California campus. Now new plans are possible at the Faculty. AB also continues to assist the Faculty in establishing ties with the American philosophy scene.

Zamizdat Publishing House, which recently released the latest edition of Twilight of “Saigon.” AB editors participated in the presentation of the book at the Anna Akhmatova Museum. An unexpected behind-the-scenes commentary on the presentation was T. Apraksina’s “When the Wall is Built,” which, according to publishing project editor Yu. Valieva, “is exactly what people need now.” J. Manteith’s performance of translations of Mike’s songs at the presentation led the organizers to think about the timeliness of recording an album of Russian songs in translation. The presentation closed with a performance by AB author Aleksandr Donskich von Romanov.

In connection with Manteith’s performance at the AB presentation, a proposal surfaced about arranging a concert of translated songs at the St. Petersburg PEN Club or somewhere else. Let’s see… We welcome everything!

— representatives of Mike Naumenko’s legacy. T. Apraksina officially announced her intention to write a book about Mike. Information about this, our Mike translations, and other Mike-inspired materials by AB editors and authors, may follow through the community of Zoopark fans in VKontakte, through AB and through other channels. We gratefully learned about recent actions by AB author Igor Petrovsky in support of Mike. Apraksina also continued to provide material and advice to Alexander Kushnir for his upcoming Mike biography.

— the International Association of Historical Psychology and the Russia-West Forum, which suggested a partnership to support T. Apraksina writing a book about America. Russia-West and the Decembrists forum have also become AB information partners, along with Through Music’s Looking Glass.

— director Alexei Prazdnikov, whose lost film about T. Apraksina, “Consonance” (Lentelefilm, 1989) was found and restored in order to provide it in an accessible format for further viewing.

— author-color theorist Nikolai Serov. Serov’s theories published in AB formed the basis of J. Manteith’s scholarly work, published and lectured on earlier this year, on the paintings of T. Apraksina. Manteith, in St. Petersburg, translated into English Serov’s new work “An Information Model of Natural Intelligence.” Meanwhile, Serov began to write his own theoretical and analytical work on Apraksina’s paintings, following up on a work co-authored with Yu.V. Romanenko in 2014.

— cellist and AB author Yuri Semenov, who luckily turned out to be in his native St. Petersburg for a concert in the early days of the AB editors’ stay there, before his return to his other base in Istanbul.

— the Great Hall of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, where it’s a joy to affirm that AB is remembered and appreciated, that music remains sacred, and that during concerts the spirit of music triumphs, freeing musicians and listeners alike for a higher understanding of life.

— author-musician-musicologist Vladimir Shulyakovsky. His quartet played a farewell concert for Apraksina in her St. Petersburg studio in 1999. This time, he was able to come to the liberated studio and play there again. Enlightening us as to his many-sided activity in recent years, he touched us with a gift of a handwritten copy of his composition “Pomegranate Shade.”

This list can and should be further developed and continued… It is a pity that we could not manage to communicate with most people with due thoroughness, or even contact them at all, due to the abundance of serious, harsh topics characteristic of this phase of reestablishment in the city. In general, we weren’t able to go many places… But those points that we nevertheless reached made indelible impressions. Moreover, as someone said in the course of one conversation, “Apraksin Lane is the whole of St. Petersburg.” Our thanks for all the intersections, for all the piercing insights that might make such a statement true.

The AB editors’ days in St. Petersburg formed a beautiful chord. This chord will take its rightful place in a large composition, which is already awaiting continuation — soon and for a long time to come. Things are happening that neither we nor anyone could possibly plan… We perceive what has happened and is happening as a miracle that exceeds our expectations. Again, our gratitude to all friends of the publication, our solidarity with them. Let’s play well together!

Events of recent days hint at a new cycle of development. AB has again made the crossing from California to St. Petersburg. Less than a day after arrival, Tatyana Apraksina managed to reopen a space and sit down to work at her desk in the magazine’s historical editorial offices on Apraksin Lane. The first meetings with supporters of the magazine’s Work have already taken place. The Russian print run of the latest issue was delivered on time for three days of presentations and is now in many contributors’ and readers’ hands. AB has also reclaimed Apraksina’s neighboring art studio, having gained an opportunity to enter the space and start restoring order there for the first time in more than twenty years.

That order turns out to include a trove of treasures shoved aside during the years of the studio’s occupation by interests alien to Blues. AB has rehung a group of Apraksina’s paintings from the mid-90s — the beginning of the age of Blues — paintings formerly trapped and plausibly lost in the plundered space. This is artwork that for more than twenty years no one could view directly and much of which had never been documented with reproductions.

Also found in the rescued studio is the once-missing 1986 painting “In Memoriam – Gutnikov.” The latter painting, which many viewers have loved dearly, proved particularly dusty and rumpled in its desolation — directly opposed to the outlet to transcendent serenity indicated by the painting’s subject. “Poor Gutnikov,” Apraksina says ruefully, as if with regard to both the painting and the long-departed violinist to whom it is dedicated.

Emphatically, such wounds are merciful marks of dedication to the high. They are battle scars. All these paintings manifest an axis where embodiment in time connects with infinity. Struggle is one of the conditions of their existence in the world.

T. Apraksina. In Memoriam - Gutnikov. 1986

T. Apraksina. In Memoriam – Gutnikov. 1986

“The first thing avaricious people do at their nearest opportunity,” says Apraksina, “is take down my paintings from walls.” Attempting to hide the possibility of a choice of selflessness, of transcendence.

Also found are a painting and a sculpture by the African artist Raymond Dalakena, who lived on the territory of the future AB editorial office in the late 70s.

Viewers can now reacquaint themselves with these resurrected works — for the first time in the new millenium.

One man wishes Apraksina, overloaded with preparing the spaces for their turnaround, “Take some time to recuperate.” “That’s probably not the most urgent thing right now,” she replies, laughing. “In that case, savor the moment!” he jokes back. And she heads off to savor the moment some more, rolling up her sleeves along the way.

Sacred objects from the sphere of the AB studio are also unearthed: old vases and statuettes, musical instruments consonant with the artist’s and editor in chief’s professional and philosophical orientation toward musicians as heroes. The greater part of these dusty instruments turns out to be crammed together, often without cases and with scrolls dangling downward, behind a large easel shoved into the corner of a storage closet. Their extrication from there is difficult, like dismantling inverted crucifixions on a shared cross. Not surprisingly, as a rule, these instruments also bear traces of trauma.

The out-of-tune antique upright piano may be tunable. Dust is easily wiped away. But the mandolin’s soundboard is now coming off, the small cello’s bridge has collapsed, and a scratch has appeared on the painted skin of one of the old Chinese drums. A guitar on which giants of musical culture have played now has a large crack and was evidently restrung for a lefty before its consignment to oblivion.

All the instruments remain emblems of the beautiful. They are alive and still able to give and to speak.

On the scratched Chinese drum is the image of a phoenix. It’s suddenly clear where the phoenix came from in Apraksina’s painting on the same subject. “Of course,” says Apraksina, “there’s a direct connection. I’ve looked at that drum so much in my life.” The painting dates from 1995 — the year of Blues’ founding. Like a phoenix, the magazine’s community was born from ashes. And now is reborn from the ashes of yet another era.

Tatyana Apraksina. Phoenix. 1995

Tatyana Apraksina. Phoenix. 1995

There is a sense that all the objects in the art studio have spent years hiding in terror and only now are letting themselves be seen again. After an extended regime of defilement, “treasure island” is opening up anew.

On the first day, a guest tells of how her heart overflowed on her way to the Lane. She recalls how, in years past, she might walk here at night and see lights burning only at these windows. And from the windows, the beat of a Chinese drum might also carry. “For me, this place is sacred!” she exclaims. This guest brings a yellow rose.

The rose stands for a day in a vase on a table in the editorial office. Then it’s hung upside down to dry on the studio’s wall. Finally, it’s set in a vase again, in a new steady state. This is the first flower offering of AB’s new time.

From France, an author, long familiar with the well-known spot on the Lane, writes that on the night of AB’s arrival she had a dream of painting the walls in the editorial apartment. Everyone feels something is happening. Everyone is taking part directly, at whatever distance, by whatever means.

Everything changes amazingly quickly. And so recently this was more or less completely unimaginable! As Apraksina says, “I have a good working belief in the invisible.”

As order is restored, ever fewer reminders of the era of disorder remain. The way is shut for any return to such an era. It is shut by the expanded ranks of paintings standing guard. It is shut, too, by people’s visits, with their human warmth and notions.



For the days of presentations and meetings with the magazine’s leadership, people are traveling from Moscow and as far away as Volgograd. Greetings arrive from Germany, France, Israel, Taiwan, and various states in America.

More and more people make contact with AB. Many first learned the editorial telephone number decades ago; using it again, they realize they recall it readily now.

Right from the first presentation, it becomes clear that a need for AB is felt like never before. Some attend all three days in a row. Someone speaks of the long-overdue prestige of phenomena without obvious pragmatic aims. Someone speaks of the breath of fresh air that AB gives in the stuffy contemporary context. It’s important, some say, that AB exists completely free of any administrative burden. That at AB’s gatherings, people can say what they think, without even introducing themselves to each other, and just remaining thinking people, as equals.



That both the editorial office and the art studio are on the very first floor seems more than a coincidence. Yes, from a residential point of view, first floors are traditionally less valued than others, at least in Russia — the first floor tends to be colder than higher ones, as water is heated from above, starting with the top floor. On the other hand, it’s quite easy to come here and find warmth in cultural association.

One visitor says, from the threshold, “I came here because I read in your announcement that eras are changing, that one era is ending and another is beginning. I feel that, too; I think about that a lot, and I’m hoping to discuss it.”

Selfless transcendence is possible. There is such an alternative. There are such precedents. One has hung on here for decades, with relevancy spanning millennia.



Maybe it was necessary to wait twenty years for society to mature for AB, for society to grow disappointed in readymade new superfluities. For people to feel, at least unconsciously, that they again need such a physically embodied forum for developing new principles of interlocution, for calibration of themes, for ardent searches for truth. As one participant said, “All of these conjunctions are so needed. They give a person both a spark and a fullness, like with gasoline. Then that spark finds the person’s gas tank. Life depends on that combustion.”

The presence of one of the proposed characteristics of the new era and of Petersburg itself, indifference, seems to fly away quickly from everyone whose life it might have touched.

It’s said that lately many people feel surrounded by shells, with no chance for broader social influence. But here, with AB, people seem to forget the issue of social influence entirely. And start feeling happy. And why not? As Apraksina reminds, all worthy things have always begun with solitary people. When resonance with truth begins, that means it’s necessary to continue. There will be results. There are results. With AB, that all can be seen.


— James Manteith, St. Petersburg

by contributing translation editor James Manteith

Photo: Irina Serpuchyonok

Just a few days remain until the planned presentation, in St. Petersburg, of the latest issue of Apraksin Blues, №29, “The Career of Freedom.” As in 2015, for the presentation of №25, “Of all the…,” editor in chief Tatyana Apraksina and I have an opportunity to travel from one of the magazine’s other bases, in California’s Santa Lucia mountains, to St. Petersburg for this presentation. Since our last trip, the three issues released in the interval (“Non-Return,” “The Vector of Translation,” “The Reefs of Conflict”) have gone out to AB’s readers and contributors in Russia through the help of our capable St. Petersburg support team.


A milestone of that earlier trip and presentation was AB regaining use of its historical St. Petersburg editorial office, where the presentation was held, along with many other meetings with friends of the magazine. During this current trip, November 5-December 6, 2019, the presentation is again planned for the editorial office on Apraksin Lane. Adding another dimension this time, miraculously, the adjacent space formerly used as Tatyana Apraksina’s art studio has also come back under the care of the artist. For the first time in more than twenty years, for the first time in the new millennium, AB has a place to lead from, work from, and interact from with the magazine’s supporters in the city and amid the very walls of its founding — within the city and walls its pages have grown from, and which remain like gates opening into and uniting new places and themes.


Understandably, as with the editorial office, resuscitating the studio will take a considerable effort. It will be different than before. Again, though, all this enables a precious continuity between past and future in AB’s cultural community, raising hopes that this past is alive and meant for dynamic permanence; that the ideals and evidence crystallized in and around AB are meant to enrich the future; and that, in the present, AB’s friends are empowered to decide and create the future they want for themselves.


As I write, on the day of our departure from the Santa Lucias, the initial run of “The Career of Freedom” is at the printers in St. Petersburg. The experience of nearly a year working on this issue remains fresh. As the issue reaches readers and is complemented by meetings with and among many of its authors, the vitality of the thoughts and minds that converge in the issue will be felt directly and will move toward new manifestations. Some of AB’s authors and readers know each other, or of each other, already; some will be encountering each other and the magazine itself for the first time; all will have a chance to see ideas, stories, aspirations given a new account, in a newly illuminating synthesis.


AB’s editor in chief, of course, has crafted and proofed this issue carefully. She has read through its pages many times, with the sum of this reading and other accompanying actions and intuitions reflected in an introductory statement, the “Blues Mondo.” As always, each of the materials in this issue has colored and will continue to inform AB’s life in its own way.


Asked what it was like to work on this issue, Apraksina commented, “Every issue is a process of searching for a kind of philosopher’s stone in a different form, from a different angle. The main thing for a given issue could be centered in one piece or dispersed across parts. Everything serves as a useful tool, even if it doesn’t seem to contain much of anything. Sometimes there’s an inner connection in hints, in phrases. Even totally unconnected authors turn out to be saying exactly the same thing. ‘Blues’ arises naturally from a condition of the atmosphere.”


Once again, readers will now have a chance to discover these inner connections, these hints and phrases pointing to the main thing, for themselves. For a start, it should be easy to determine the source of the issue’s title, derived from contributor Olga Shilova’s article of the same name, on the Decembrist Mikhail Lunin. The phrase itself belongs to Lunin, who used these words to describe his own life’s orientation. This orientation, of course, led him on a path of exile and deprivation, but also of liberation, of becoming himself, of embodying his values and sensibilities on a new scale and in contexts of being far beyond his native environment, and yet serving as a form of offering to enlarge human definitions anywhere. Kindred priorities, lived in extremely diverse ways, might be glimpsed among other lives contemplated in this issue: Emily Dickinson, Milarepa, Catullus, and others. And through all, the supreme life and “living logic” of the Trinity.


As the life of Apraksin Blues continues, “Translation Department” and other voices of this community will continue to report and dialog from this constellation of cultural unities and affinities — and partitioning for the sake of their higher and fuller realization, as Apraksina’s new Mondo suggests. As new material from original Russian AB issues appears in translation, “Translation Department” will alert readers to these premieres, as well as providing background to pieces and speaking of the mind of translation and cross-cultural engagement on the whole. Having translated and written for AB for more than two decades now, I can and will provide more windows on the joys, struggles and insights for which this modestly enduring publication serves as a locus point — true to its founding principles, continuing to stand on Peter’s rock.

What needs translation, in this case and maybe always, is reality.